By Joe McDonald :
CHINA’S highest-profile entrepreneur, Jack Ma, appeared on Wednesday in an online video, ending a 2 1/2-month absence from public view that prompted speculation about the future of the e-commerce billionaire and his Alibaba Group. In the 50-second video, Ma congratulated teachers supported by his foundation and made no mention of his disappearance or official efforts to tighten control over Alibaba and other Internet companies over the past six months. The video appeared on Chinese business news and other websites.
The normally voluble Ma disappeared from public view after he irked regulators by criticising them in an October 24 speech at a Shanghai conference. Days later, regulators suspended the planned multibillion-dollar stock market debut of Ant Group, a financial platform that grew out of Alibaba’s payments service, Alipay. That prompted speculation online about whether the 56-year-old Ma, China’s biggest global business celebrity and a symbol of its tech boom, had been detained or might face legal trouble. The Jack Ma Foundation said in a statement on Wednesday: “Jack Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on January 20.” The foundation and Alibaba didn’t respond to questions about Ma’s status and when his next public event might be.